Las Vegas Widow

In stunned silence the lion tamer realised his mistake.  The roar from the lion’s gaping mouth was deafening.  It sent out bone-shaking reverberations, which the audience loved, as always.  But tonight the lion tamer loved nothing about it.  No, the lion tamer’s blood froze and time froze with it; time seemed to hang suspended over the vast chasm between his last heartbeat and the next one, if it ever arrived; as all the while his thoughts went racing after answers.

Why?  His act had always been a roaring success until now.  “Roaring success” – even in his current predicament the lion tamer winced at the terrible pun, which he always resented using in his marketing bumpf but could never escape from.  You had to trumpet success in whatever fashion you could, no matter how corny.  And the act that he and his wife originated together, when they were just starting out and still practically kids, had always won rave reviews and put bums on seats.  It was a perfect combination of their talents: he with his uncanny affinity for big cats, no matter how fierce; and she with that radiance she could project into crowds, holding complete strangers transfixed, especially when she was younger, the Lovely Tsaritsa.

They toured throughout Europe, gaining fame and a million Facebook likes, whilst mostly keeping on the good side of the animal rights campaigners.  After that, they headed to the Far East and their lifestyle became more luxurious.  Luxury suited them, he thought, and they took to it with gusto in their different ways.  Then they brought the act to Las Vegas.  The crowds there had been wowed from the start, but tonight it looked as if they might get more of a show than they bargained for.  Why?

The USA had promised so much, as Promised Lands are supposed to.  Husband and wife settled down in a secluded beachfront property, basking in everyday sunshine and ease.  They reaped their rewards and he was proud of that.  She hoped for kids, little boy and little girl.  He hoped for an American lover with nubile limbs and a carefree approach to life and love.  He got what he wanted, while her wishes remained on the to-do list as their career took precedence.

But tonight all those rewards hung in the balance, only inches from destruction.  Why?  His mind was still racing.  Then it came to an abrupt conclusion: what would happen if a once radiant wife (who maybe hadn’t got what she wanted from life, who was maybe now wanting widowhood?) took secretions from a lion’s scent glands and worked them into the hair gel of a past-his-prime lion tamer immediately before he stuck his cheating, scheming head into a rival lion’s gaping mouth?

Time resumed.  The lion’s immense jaws slammed shut and gleaming incisors punctured the lion tamer’s skull with a pop.  The proud head deflated rapidly, like a bloody balloon.

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This short story was written in response to the latest TipsyLit writing prompt: For this week’s prompt, the theme is taking a big risk.  All of the stories written for the prompt can be read by clicking on the image below.  

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Split

The “J” in his name stood for nothing, he said; although his birth certificate recorded him as Julius. An elusive and complex man, clearly. Those complexities were never more apparent, to himself if no one else, as Julius headed back to his office, head bowed, watching his feet with the utmost care as each step landed heavily along the path. His own tread seemed to fascinate him, suddenly. The path was concrete, shining greyly in the hazy sunshine, and it felt solid under Julius’ feet. It felt like it always did: solid ground felt solid, by definition. But he’d never noticed it before, not really; never paused to take account of the fact, to be thankful. Today he noticed. But today he was too anxious (and too proud) to give thanks.

Weaving along the path, Julius raised his head to see the whitish buildings of Los Alamos that gleamed all around him, as usual, in the sticky air; but he was aware that they were no longer usual. Today, 16th July 1945, marked the point in time when this location took on an almost supernatural aura. Julius was profoundly aware of that fact, of all the myriad implications that now radiated out from this location and altered the fates of men. His overweening ambition ensured he was fiercely proud of the knowledge; unendurably anxious, too.

“It worked,” Julius muttered to himself as he eased his office door shut behind him and slumped into a chair. He stared blankly at his hands, which he clasped together try to stop the tremors in them. It was unsuccessful, so instead he gazed across the office where his name was emblazoned on the glass door.

How many names and epithets a man gets through in a single lifetime: Little Julius was long gone (if he ever existed at all); J. Robert Oppenheimer had succeeded him and come to prominence as a physicist; next the “Coordinator of Rapid Rupture” had overseen the Manhattan Project and steered it to success; now the destroyer of worlds waited in the wings to take his place. Yes, the irony of this precarious world of ours seemed to know no bounds, Oppenheimer thought. It was possible to fail the army physical test (as he had done a few years ago) because the doctors considered him underweight, because they diagnosed his chronic cough as tuberculosis and were concerned about the lumbosacral joint pain he was plagued by; yet he could still become the destroyer of worlds.

He shook his head. It was inconceivable. “What next?” he brooded.

The years-long intensity of the nuclear project, along with his infidelity, had caused deep splits in his family. Today the project hurtled towards its cataclysmic conclusion and Robert Oppenheimer would be left to return to civilian life, there to pick up the pieces with his wife, his little girl and little boy. “But now we’ve split the atom,” he wondered, “well… who’ll ever be able to pick up the pieces again?”

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This short story was written in response to the latest TipsyLit writing prompt: For this week’s prompt, your story should include some form of picking up the pieces.

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